It was the small, magical moments during our holiday to Hawaii that mattered most

Forgive me for my recent radio silence, but I’m struggling to get back into real time since our return from Hawaii.

No doubt, some of you will be interested to know how we fared, having spent so much time reading about my angst in relation to where the fuck to take an anxious, middle-aged man who didn’t want to leave his suburb. But, alas, I am no travel writer, so I’ve decided to style this post in the same way as Jamila Rizvi did here last week in The Age, and focus on the small things that made it feel so special.

Woman sitting on beach in front of view.
I call this photo “Come to Mama!”

I won’t lie, the holiday (in the company of my husband and our twenty-something daughter) wasn’t always the plain sailing experience I had prayed for prior to our departure from Sydney. However, I won’t bore you with the stories of when our two hire cars broke down – leading to the old man’s worldwide ban from AVIS – the loss of his bank card, or the time he turned the wrong way down a street. As I’m sure you can tell from this photo, he had a great time.

Man looking miserable at shopping center.
Have you ever seen such a vision of natural joy? He just LOVES shopping and Halloween.

And by normal standards, I imagine that the sort of holiday woes we experienced are the kind of par-for-the-course shit that everyone goes through, laughs about and puts down to travelling.

Admittedly, the bus tour between Honolulu and Haleiwa on the North Shore was not the anticipated 45 minute journey I had forecast in my itinerary – probably because I read the ‘by car’ calculation of time instead of ‘by stagecoach’ – but at least it included an educational tour of Honolulu’s military bases and a nostalgic trip back to the prison set where Hawaii 5-0 must have been shot. The return journey was even longer, and while none of us expected a three-hour circumnavigation of Oahu that took us into the night, we were all grateful for the scenic experience.

Many lessons were learned: we now know never to declare war on a feisty Hawaiian customer service lady who deals with entitled tourists on a daily basis; we learned that the portion sizes really are as terrifying in the US as we had been led to believe, and that you only need order a few plates to share; and finally, we now appreciate that the mountain temperature on our weather App is no guide to the temperature on the beach.

Mouthwatering plate of Tuna Tataki.
The TUNA!

There were the usual minor medical issues like blocked ears, dehydration, and some ongoing issues with obesity augmented by the portion size of the Rocky Road ice cream they sold at our local bar.

But let me get back to the small things that justified our thousands of dollars spent choice of destination, that still make my heart sing to the tune of Moana each time I think back to them:

  1. The landscape: What’s not to love about a destination that offers world-class beaches, the spirituality of a mountain landscape (that look like it belongs in Peru), and cheap, designer shopping that even the most ardent window shopper will find impossible to resist?
  2. The beaches: I can honestly say that Waikiki, the beaches on the North Shore of Honolulu, and those in Maui lived up to the paradise we had been promised. Living in Australia, it’s hard to impress us when it comes to beaches, but we weren’t disappointed – particularly by the ocean temperature, which made it dead easy to plunge into it several times a day.
  3. The turtles: I’ll be honest, we didn’t see flocks of them like I imagined – a bit like when we visited Kangaroo Valley and never saw any kangaroos – but we spotted several from the shoreline and a couple swam up close to us. Fact: they can be SERIOUSLY BIG MOTHERFUCKERS!
  4. The snorkelling: This time it was the relaxing experience I imagined it could be when I was growing up and wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. Pretty, unthreatening tropical fish were a welcome change from The Great Barrier Reef’s terrifyingly black Gropers and slimy cucumbers, and although NC swore she saw a sea snake, she only told me about it once we were on the plane home.
  5. The music: Hawaiian music comes from the soul and shoots straight through the heart. I will always remember the night the old man asked a Hawaiian singer to sing a song from Moana for NC, who ugly-cried (very publicly), and another when a heavily pregnant dancer performed the Hula.
  6. American coffee: It gets a bad rap around the world, but the choice of flavours is awesome. I mean, how can a Vanilla/Macadamia nut coffee be bad?
  7. The food: OMG! Sex is good but have you ever tried melt-in-your-mouth Ahi (tuna), sealed in hot butter, with sides of coleslaw and coconut rice?
  8. The sunsets: I’m usually half way down a bottle by sunset and never fully appreciate their beauty, but Maui’s sunsets light up the sky like fireworks and are impossible to ignore.
Restaurant view of stunning mountain landscape in Maui.
Not a bad view for lunch.

And then there were the cheap COCKTAILS, an overdue discovery of Fireball whisky. and the old man’s dishcloth dance – after aforementioned whisky. All in all, a myriad of magical moments thrown into twelve days and an experience I’d love to replicate, had the old man not thrown away his passport.

Is It Normal To Hate People Who Go On Exotic Holidays All The Time? Asking For A Friend

This is a follow on from my last post in which I discussed my chances of dragging my husband away on an exotic holiday this year. Thank you for the abundance of awesome recommendations (for anxious, middle-aged couples, with zero interests in common) that you kindly left on that post, and which have since been dissected, over-thought and (no doubt) put on the back burner until I force him to make a decision.

Image found on Pinterest from awakenmindset.com

I should point out that I have warned him that his refusal to commit is exactly the sort of thing that middle-aged couples divorce over, and in response he asked me when I am leaving.

I am not, by nature, a green-eyed monster, so I find this whole travel-envy thing to be quite peculiar. Indeed, I have always denied the impact of social media on my happiness – made easier in this case, I imagine, by our move to the other side of the world to a wonderful country that offers a wealth of different landscapes and natural beauty.

I was, (and still am), committed to the financial choices the old man we have made to semi-retire.

However, it does leave us with a very limited budget for holidays and lately I’ve started to get itchy feet, thanks to all of those inspirational memes about travel, adventures and growth that fill my FB home page, as well as the bunch of our friends that are starting to take advantage of their new empty-nester status and are therefore ALWAYS on fucking holiday.

So what’s changed? I suppose that when I entered this stage of my life I still had the arrogance of the European who feels like they’ve seen the world – when the reality is, I’ve visited a couple of European countries a lot of times. I may have lived in Europe for forty years, but I didn’t have the wisdom back then to make the most of what it had to offer.

Added to which, I came back from our last exotic trip to Bali in two minds about foreign holidays. I was pretty shaken up by the level of poverty – in what I had been led to believe was a paradise – hence, I spent much of our time there stressing about the families on scooters, food poisoning and feral dogswhich always made a beeline for me.

Unsurprisingly, our next holiday was to Forster.

I’m not certain what is behind this current attack of itchy feet. Is it an innate fear of time running out? Am I missing a diversity of culture that simply doesn’t exist on the Northern Beaches of Sydney? Or is it simply that I’m scared that I am cruising through life and getting boring?

While there are many benefits to working from home – the main one being that my desk is close to the fridge – one of the few downsides is that life can become very insular. And when you struggle from anxiety, the fact that you rarely have to leave the house can cultivate the problem.

Interestingly, when I think about my dream holiday, it isn’t about swanky hotels, exotic beaches or even two-for-one cocktails like it used to be – we have some pretty nice beaches here. No, the appeal is more linked to new experiences, new cultures, the challenge of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and growth. It is about sharing those experiences with my soulmate – rather than the typical mundanities we share each week, like when the dog last went out for a poo.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very content to get comfortable in certain areas of middleage-dom. I wouldn’t trade flat shoes, nightly Netflix and separate bedrooms for anything! But I can’t ignore that little voice that keeps nagging me to keep on exploring.

The Prodigal Daughter Is Not Coming Home For Australia Day, She’s Coming To See Us

The prodigal daughter returns this weekend for the first time since she left the nest. While she assures me that she won’t be celebrating Australia Day for political reasons, I’ll believe that when she turns down the special bottle of Champers I’ve bought for tomorrow. 

girl-2480361_1920Although I only saw her a few days ago, it will be good to get some girl power back in the house. I use the word ‘prodigal’, but obviously, we won’t be cooking up a fatted calf in celebration, NC being a strict vegetarian who only eats fish if it doesn’t have a face and when she’s pissed. Anyway, a few cans of cider and a whole Camembert is much more my daughter’s style, because she’s classy like her mother.

I’ve changed her bedsheets, filled the fridge with tofu and warned Kurt to curb his excitement about her imminent arrival, because when I reminded him, he asked me why she had to come, and an ill-disguised look of pain crossed his face.

Siblings, huh!

‘Because it’s her home and we’re her parents and she wants to see us,’ I replied, convincing myself at the same time, because we all know what trips back home are really about after you land your first job and you’re still living hand to mouth – they’re about the all-inclusive hotel perks of home cooking, hot water, unlimited booze and access to your parents’ wallet.

I remember when we used to visit my in-laws when NC was a baby, how we’d walk through the front door, dump her straight into Grandma’s arms and then like Vikings, raid their home, their fridge, their wine cask, and even their wallet so that we could eat out that night. I don’t remember feeling any sense of shame about our behavior – we’d done our part, carried on the family line, and now we needed someone to parent us again for a short time.

We only saw NC when we had to during those glorious weekends, and I encouraged that dangerous grandma/grandchild connection. Frankly, I sold my motherhood soul while I was there – I didn’t give a toss about how many lollies she blackmailed my child with as long as she got up to her in the night, and I ignored all her unsubtle hints about my parenting skills not being quite like hers for those two precious lay-ins; forty-eight hours when I could pretend to be me again, the person I used to be before birthing this tiny monster that had sucked the lifeblood out of me.

Secretly, I’m excited to have the chance to spoil my little girl (I would say ‘again’ but I know she’ll dispute that). I know we’ll be arguing about the glasses in her room, the foundation streaks in the bathroom sink and the endless cans of lentils she opens and never finishes, probably by tomorrow morning, but for the moment I’ve filed my daughter’s annoying habits to the back of my mind.

He feigns not to be, but it is obvious that the old man is even more excited than me. He hasn’t seen NC for a month – because that would involve leaving the safety zone and embarking upon a treacherous, high-risk journey to the big smoke, an hour away. However, he has been suspiciously quieter than usual this week; no doubt sharpening his wit and revising his views on feminism, climate change and vegetarianism, to ensure an evening of typically light-hearted debate with his eldest child. He has also filled the fridge with cider.

What Do You Do When Your Daughter Rejects The Most Sacrosanct Of Family Christmas Traditions?

There has been a rollercoaster of changes in our house recently, all of which are interfering with the slow and steady build up to Christmas and my preparations that I pride myself on each year. That’s the thing about this stage of parenting – one minute you’re stumbling along in a fug of wet-towel-on-the-floor acceptance, and the next thing you know, their entitled asses are off without as much as a wave goodbye.  

 

donkey-105719_1920
Meet “Sacrifice”

 

Friends of ours recently arrived home from a long trip overseas to discover that their youngest had left the nest while they were away and I could tell by the emptiness in my friend’s eyes that she is still adjusting to the echoes in the house.

 

And just before Christmas. Very cruel.

 

At least NC has given us some time to acclimatize to the news that she is leaving us to manage her brother by ourselves for pastures new, but this bold new independence has empowered her in other ways as well. She now believes she can call the shots in terms of change in other long-held bastions of family tradition as well – and as you know, change is something neither my husband nor my son does well.

 

This Christmas, she has dared to request that instead of the cheap tat that Santa normally delivers to her Christmas stocking, that she has fewer, more useful gifts than the one-dollar bath bombs, multi packs of hairbands and five-for-one knickers with the days of the week emblazoned on the front of them, from Target.

 

Now, it’s one thing to get my head around her leaving us alone with her brother just before Christmas –  but quite another when she decides to alter Santa’s responsibilities. As it is, I’ve had to accept that my mince pie is now vegan and veggie sausages have been added to the food mountain list for the past two Christmas’. Before I know it, she’ll be demanding sustainable gifts, or worse, suggest donating my personal gift budget to some donkey or goat in Africa – an act of questionable generosity that a friend of mine swears she does each year in place of our Christmas cards.

 

I like to think I am progressive and I certainly believe in change for the better, but you don’t mess with Christmas and customs that (albeit, may have scant regard for the religious connotations of the festival), yet continue to remain sacrosanct to our traditional family values.

 

There is a joy to tradition. It’s like having a holiday home and knowing that your own wine glass is there waiting for you each time you go. In the same way that there were certain things you could count on as a child – you would be eating your lunch for dinner if you didn’t finish it, there was absolutely no leeway for negotiation over bedtimes, you had to have one bath once a week, and there was always that comforting certainty of a giant tube of Smarties, an orange and a net of stale chocolate coins in your Christmas stocking.

 

I know that other families’ approach the gift-thing in different ways, but in our house, the stocking has always come from Santa and the more expensive gifts come from family, are wrapped and placed under the tree. As marketed by the retailers who import the tat from Asia, what Santa puts in stockings are “fillers”, and as such, not gifts that really serve a purpose. It is the crap that sits in your room once all the chocolate has gone, until the realization that it is useless tat sinks in – usually somewhere around New year. It is first-world materialism, and nothing to be proud of, so perhaps NC has a point and I should stop supporting child labor, play Hare Krishna instead of Buble as I dress the tree this year, and name my donkey “sacrifice.”

Couples Holidays For The Middle-Aged – When Sometimes It’s Easier To Stay At Home

buoy-914766_1920The problem with going away when you finally reach that longed-for stage of almost empty-nesting is that anxiety tends to rear its ugly head at about the same time in your life, and it throws up all sorts of other issues. So although we don’t have to worry about remembering a long list of toddler essentials like nappies and sterilizers and portable beds nowadays, we do have to prepare ourselves for the mental anguish of dashed expectations, change, flying, other people and more importantly other people’s small children.

Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be easier to stay at home.

Somewhat predictably, I fear we have turned into one of those moaning, judgmental, middle-aged couples on holiday because there is definitely a pattern emerging each time we go away, where we spend more time waiting to get home than actually enjoying our holiday.

‘It’s a bit hot,’ the old man had commented, an hour into our holiday as we downed our second drink in celebration of our survival of the most tumultuous flight since London to Dublin circa 1995.

‘Stop moaning,’ I said, as I watched him squint at the sun because he forgot to pack his sunglasses.We’re making an effort to be grateful this holiday, remember?’ I reminded him sternly.

Because we know we should be grateful. A whole week without the kids at one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been to – (because I got a deal) – and I had even managed to ignore the unspoken meaning behind the words of mine and Kurt’s doctor when she grabbed me by the shoulder the day before we left and said, ‘are you seriously leaving Kurt with NC?’ Surely, she should know by now that’s not the sort of thing you say to someone you are treating for anxiety disorder?

‘I’m never flying again,’ I had stated earlier that morning when we stepped off the plane on legs that refused to coordinate after two hours of non-stop turbulence on a three hour flight in which that whole scene when NC tells Kurt that the old man has left all of their inheritance to the Spoodle Sanctuary had played over and over in my mind as I decided we were going to die – and even worse, on a flight during which there was no alcohol with which to dull the demons of anxiety because it was breakfast time and society dictates…never mind.

But two hours later we found ourselves in paradise, and the effects of drinking wine in the sun at lunchtime and the knowledge that we might survive another week had given me some (false) hope, so we ventured down to the pool of our hotel. And lo and behold, two free sunbeds jumped out at us immediately (without the old man having to threaten or remove anyone’s towels) – in the shade, but as the old man informed me whilst setting his alarm for 5 am tomorrow, that would be the last time anyone put him in the shade – and so finally, we settled down to relax.

But if you believe in the Law of Attraction, you’ll know that it was almost inevitable that as soon as our eyes began to glaze over, those first cold splashes of pool water from about a dozen noisy kids who decided that the best part of the Olympic-sized pool to play in with big blow up toys and water soakers was directly in front of us, would bring us back to reality. Kids, we had assumed, would be at school at this time of the year.

The heat of hatred seared my body from the direction of the old man’s sunbed well before the sun had a chance, as he hissed a ‘fuck!’ under his breath. ‘Breathe!’ I said to myself as I pulled my towel over my head.

‘Look at how gorgeous this place is,’ I tried, looking out towards our surroundings above the heads of the feral children at the clear blue sky framed by palm trees and the crystal waters beneath it – my ears just about able to pick up the clink of Champagne glasses from the al fresco restaurant over the whining squeals of ‘Mummy, MUMMY…LOOK AT ME!’ in every other direction.

A tut came back in response.

‘Do you know how intolerant you’re becoming with middle age?’ I asked him, wiping the water from my legs.

‘Pfft!’ he responded. ‘We’re going to an over-18 hotel next time.’

‘We can’t afford over-18 hotels…’

‘Okay, well I’m staying at home, then,’ he said, jamming his earplugs into his ears, like a sulking teenager.

‘There’s still the buffet breakfast…’was my last-ditched attempt to save the week.

To be continued…

‘Tis The Season Of The Family Holiday

It’s that character-building time of the year when all those carefully thwarted irritations caused by living with people you didn’t choose to live with, are thrown squarely into the spotlight on the family holiday. family-932245_1280

 

Why I insist on instilling this week of hell bonding I have no idea, but I get sentimental after I watch the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and we begin the final approach to the silly season. All those movies like Love Actually, The Holiday and Home Alone remind me of the importance of keeping families together, no matter how far apart our life journeys take us.

 

Why I should feel the need to do this when our young adults refuse to leave home, I don’t know, but the aim of this week is to get through it to be thankful for what we have and to remind each other how much we really love and appreciate each other. I expert either Kurt or the old man to be back on the road by day two.  

 

We’ve allowed the kids to invite a friend this year, with certain conditions drawn up by our solicitor. We want to encourage their friendships, show them how much we respect them as young adults and demonstrate to them how chilled we can be by this out-of-character ‘more the merrier’ approach, but we also hope that their friends provide enough of a distraction that we don’t have to actually do anything to entertain them ourselves.

 

We have yet to meet Kurt’s friend in person because each time he has come to the house so far he is stowed away in Kurt’s den as fast as you can say ‘Marijuana’, so the only evidence of his visits are the sound of his baritone laugh, an increase in the smoke levels in the courtyard and a shared enthusiasm for twanging ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on guitar late at night. He did order in a pizza the other night under the name of Donald Trump, so I assume he has a sense of humour.

 

We’re not over-anxious parents but Kurt and his friend don’t arrive at our holiday home until the day after we leave Sydney and so to avoid the temptation of the current teenage trend for a ‘free’ at our place – teenage slang for when the “rents” are away, hence a free house to destroy – we need to make sure he leaves before we do, check every orifice for any spare keys he may have secreted, and hire guards (at great expense) for each boundary of the property.

 

NC’s friend has replaced The Astronaut – he who can never be mentioned but whose loss the old man and I continue to grieve over when we’re drunk, much to her disgust. Hopefully she matches NC’s current enthusiasm for all-night partying which means we won’t see them much of them.

 

The best part about this holiday is that it is a dog-friendly establishment and so The Princess is coming with us and her superior parenting skills should keep things vaguely civil. Hopefully this means that the old man won’t be tempted to spoon me in the bed for our annual Christmas ‘cuddle’ and we won’t have to endure her un-stoic suffering at the kennels on the pet-cam either. When the suitcases came out, her usual panic attack provoked by separation anxiety was quickly quashed once we gave her her own back pack which she has been filling with relish with her toys and the contents of hers and Kurt’s Advent calendar ever since.

 

The old man and I remain optimistic about long walks along the beach, time for reading, a chance to catch up on the one or two British Netflix series that we haven’t yet done marathon screenings of when hungover and some culinary indulgence. With four twenty-somethings (who we suspect are only really coming for the free booze), and an anxious dog, what could possibly go wrong?

 

 

 

Australian Survives Horror Jelly Fish Attack In Italy

One of the gnawing fears you have when you make the decision to migrate to another country is that your children may respond to the beckoning call of the homeland once they are old enough to decide where they want to live. jellyfish-257860_1280 (1)

 

That worry has been brought home to me over the past few weeks since NC, (like most Australian twenty-somethings), donned her backpack and popped over to Europe to ‘find herself’ with friends. I worried that the minute she caught up with her “roots” and felt that tug of familial love that still pulls at me from time to time when I return home, her foundations in Australia might begin to shake.

 

A message from her this morning managed to assuage my concerns, however, for it turns out that NC is probably the only person in Europe to be stung by a jellyfish.

 

Let’s not forget that our girl has lived in, nay survived in Australia – most famously recognised as the land That Time Forgot that houses ten of the most deadly animals – for eleven years with nothing more than a mosquito bite, and yet a dip in the Ligurian Sea has forced her to compete with Blake Lively in The Shallows for the most scary water fight of her life.

 

I can’t say that actually living in Australia eradicates its reputation for the certainty of death around every corner, and I have to be very careful about what I say in my job when I introduce new migrants to our land.

 

I try not to mention the spiders, for example, because although everyone has heard of Sydney’s deadly Funnel Web, (which leaves you around thirty minutes to get the anti-venom or you’re fucked), no-one tells you about their more common, larger and uglier sisters, the Huntsmen, which are much more common than we’d like them to be.

 

I haven’t been lucky enough to encounter a Funnel Web yet, and I know many Australians who haven’t either, because in general they tend to stay outside, in the ground or under rocks, providing another excuse for never gardening…Ever! 

 

Australians have a very different attitude to wildlife than us pathetic Poms, I should add, which means that if you want to be accepted here you have to toughen up. In Australia, it’s commonly accepted that if it doesn’t kill you, it’s alright.

 

What they can’t downgrade about their problematic wildlife is that a lot of them do.

 

When I first walked down the steps off the plane at Sydney airport a decade ago, I admit that I was expecting a Sharknado, spiders to drop from the trees and snakes to slither through the cracks of my hotel windows.

 

But it’s really not that bad…if you live in an apartment in the city.

 

Cockroaches – and they’re big fuckers – are as much a part of life as rats are to London, but you DO get used to them – honest! The Princess uses them as dental floss and I love that satisfying crack as she halves them like a walnut.

 

While the Huntsman, (with its legs even hairier than mine in winter), has frightened the living crap out of me several times, demonstrating a rather unimpressive quality to my personality on more than one occasion, Australians see them as a wonder of the planet because they consume the mosquitoes. I have many crazy friends who leave them in their bedrooms on patrol. I’ve also met several who have had them drop out from behind the visor in their car whilst they were driving and nearly died. huntsman-spider-1234030_1280

 

It’s all just another magical part of living in this glorious country.

 

Usually competent in the water (if you ignore the last Olympics), we can certainly compete on the jellyfish front as well, with the world’s deadliest up north in the form of the Box jellyfish. I was surprised when I was there when I didn’t see people swimming in the sea out of stinger season, having presumed it to be safe, only to be put right by a local who admitted that they never swim in the water at any time of the year – they leave that to the tourists.

 

As was proven by the poor British woman who recently lost her life to a crocodile in Northern Queensland. Stories like that produce a shake of the head and silent ‘fucking idiot’ condemnation from the average Australian because EVERYONE knows that you don’t swim in croc-infested water…and especially not at night.

 

I wonder if everyone in Cinque Terre knew about that one jellyfish in the water or if it was another case of my daughter’s Bridget Jones-esque attraction to bad luck when travelling?

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child…I Hope

Some people believe it takes a village to raise a child; in our case it will probably take a whole fucking city.The lengths you go to, to prevent your dysfunctional, magnet-attracting-trouble teenager, from creating havoc while you’re away. team-386673_1280

 

When Louisa Clare shared a post from Revolution From Home entitled In The Absence Of The Village, Mothers Struggle Most this week, she reminded me of the idea of the ‘village’ and the way many of our parents raised their children; with support from family and the local community. If you read the post, I’m certain that many of you will be able to identify with Beth’s list of the problems modern parents face today, that stem from not having the same life-line.

 

As she says, ‘In the absence of the village, we’re disadvantaged like never before. We may have more freedoms than our foremothers, but our burden remains disproportionately, oppressively heavy’.   

 

It often saddens me that we so rarely have a ‘village’ at our disposal to help raise our offspring. That extra support that so much of us go without today might be the missing link to premature burn out, mental health issues and divorce and certainly shouldn’t be ignored as one of the root triggers of the entitlement issues manifested by Generation Y today.

 

I was fortunate to have a ‘village’ to support my parents when I was growing up – a tight family network that rallied around when my mother became the first woman in the family to get divorced. We all lived in different suburbs, but congregated to the matriarch (Granny’s) at the weekend to be indulged and reminded about the importance of respecting our parents, taught how to share via rough play with cousins, forced to eat beetroot and salad cream – a lesson in managing our expectations, I assume – and treated with Space Saucers on our way out – something I now realise was probably a bribe for good behavior for the following week.

 

I know from my day job when I talk to my clients, (who come from all different cultures), that having a village to raise your child still happens in most third world countries, but it might surprise you to know that many European cultures still employ some of those traditional child-rearing methods, too. In Italy, the kids rarely leave home until they marry and once they do get hitched, they take on the responsibility for looking after their ageing parents. The majority of Asian countries follow a similar circle-of-life policy.

 

Could this be why many western kids are floundering now? Because they haven’t had the support and protection of close family around to help shape them – the only people close enough to be honest with them, to teach and incorporate within them the right values in their lives?

 

As you already know (here), the idea of relying on other people to look out for our own child is very pertinent for us right now, as the old man and I swan off to distant shores together for the first time child-free, removing some of the scaffolding that has supported Kurt up until now. Rest assured, I’ve been through every stage of guilt about this trip – the early ‘mother-guilt stage’, the stage where I told the old man he couldn’t possibly go after the latest Kurt-fuelled crisis, to this point, where I’ve finally reached a measure of acceptance, and we’re re-writing our wills.

 

And although I may not have the traditional ‘village’ to be ‘our eyes’ while we’re away, I have a bunch of wonderful surrogate family members who have offered their private detective/childcare services to protect the local community from our child.

 

In fact, it has really touched me how many offers of help we’ve received; especially when so many of those offers have come from people who read my blog. It has made me realise how much we Kurt needs this – in fact it could be the making of our boy.

 

So thanks to that friend who advised me that Kurt will be fine… but I might want to take a photo of how the apartment looked before we left, as well as to those friends who are Kurt-sitting for the middle weekend to give NC some space in which to restore her sanity, vocal chords and patience. Thanks also to those many girlfriends who have offered up their middle-aged husbands as bouncers in case an emergency extraction is required when the concierge realises that it is indeed our apartment on the roof terrace, that is hosting the newest live Sydney music festival, and all hell breaks loose.

12 Awful Things I Don’t Miss About Having A Child At School

The first term of the academic year is winding to a close, fortunately in tandem with the time the kids start to become really feral from the intense pressure of having to concentrate for a whole ten weeks. And I imagine that while some mums are dreading the next two weeks of holiday, some will be cracking open the Chardy to celebrate the break from routine.

 

Kurt is reaching the end of his first semester at TAFE and I can see the tiredness begin to creep in, the requirement to regiment his lifestyle so he can get up in the morning start to take its toll, and an eery sense of malaise settle over the apartment. still-life-851328_1280

 

I was at a friend’s house the other day – a beautiful house set in suburbia, surrounded by moving (!) bushland – and the only object to spoil her perfect, state-of-the-art kitchen was the number of gawdy, good behaviour charts stuck to the fridge.

 

And in spite of being surrounded by other mums, much younger than myself, (hence, trying to be on my best behaviour and not blowing the whistle on how terrible children really are), I might have inadvertently shuddered at the memory of what having a child at school entails.

 

It brought me back to ‘those days’ of trying everything, (bar selling my body), to get your child through school. Not the good behaviour charts, necessarily – because we worked out very quickly that they were pretty ineffective with children such as Kurt when ADHD kids can barely wait a minute before they expect their reward – just ‘school days’ in general.

 

Can it really be almost a year since Kurt’s last school turned their back on him?

 

Not that life has become drastically less challenging since Kurt was asked to leave school, but I never fully appreciated until now, just how torturous the many rules of mainstream education can be for some kids, as well as for their parents.

 

Here’s what I don’t miss:

 

  1. Homework – This could be numbers 1 through to 12, such is the relief that I don’t have to touch it these days. I’m unreliably informed that homework is actually voluntary and am still dumbfounded that I never got the memo.
  2. Uniform –the concept of uniform is a sound idea, but the reality of rustling together all the correct pieces of clothing at 7am on a Monday morning when you realise that some vital component has been left at the weekend sleepover, still haunts me. ‘Mufti’ days should be banned unless every parent is reminded by text that morning.
  3. Packed lunches – so much time, so much thought and preparation wasted on food that will be thrown away, bartered with, or left to biodegrade in a school bag.
  4. Notes and Admin – Schools hadn’t heard about a carbon footprint in our day, or seen the statistics for the success rate of one piece of paper making it all the way home.
  5. Performance nights – there was the fear of shame if your child was picked versus the indignation when they weren’t. The inner ear damaged created by the ‘training band,’ and the wet knickers from the uncontrollable laughter at their expense.
  6. Birthday parties – the traumatic pain of being the parent of the child who never gets an invitation.
  7. Sport – the pain/pride of being the parent of the child who is always a ‘supporter’.
  8. Early band/sport practice – the full dehumanization of parents is achieved when you force them to get up earlier than their day job requires to transport a child to an activity that they only want to attend to see their friends/for the free breakfast.
  9. The playground – #shudder
  10. Cafeteria duty – a debilitating-to-working mums scheme set up by evil schools to highlight the school’s most stoic/perfect mums.
  11. Lost hats – a test of morality for those mothers who see the solution to a problem of a lost hat by sneaking into lost property after school hours with the stealth of a ninja to steal another pupil’s hat, even though they’ve taught their child that theft is up there with joining ISIS. Closer to the lesson of ‘what goes around, comes around’.
  12. Those telephone calls from school – the best excuse for becoming a functioning alcoholic and practicing your  best drama school line of ‘sorry, you’ve got the wrong number’ in lots of silly European accents.

And I haven’t even mentioned selling raffle tickets for a cause you don’t give a shit about, parking or having to buy the teachers gifts…

Anything to add?

Massage And The Price Of Beauty

With so much festive fun going on recently, I never got the chance to tell you about the best bits of our family holiday before Christmas. 

Enjoying spa
How I thought I’d look on the massage table…

 

Being a ‘family holiday’, it obviously wasn’t going to be a moment that involved the family. No, the real standout was a massage I treated myself to, in readiness for my plans for the new year, which, as I mentioned here a couple of posts ago, is going to be all about me.

 

Not that I’m hard to please when it comes to massage, having had a total of three massages in my entire life. As usual, I came late to the party of self-indulgence when it comes to beauty and had always viewed massages as a waste of money in my previous, naive life; rather like manicures and pedicures. Whenever my friends suggested a spa-weekend, I was always the one to diss the idea and say ‘yeah… not really.’ 

 

Because beauty treatments have always bored the pants off me. And then there’s that whole problem of having to make small talk with your therapist, when you have to actually pay to make up stories about your interesting life. But as I get older, I’ve decided to finally see what all the fuss is about, because it’s not like I don’t think I could use a little help with my appearance these days… if only I didn’t find it so hard to sit still for longer than ten minutes.

 

But an hour of total relaxation after a week of enduring Kurt’s mood swings brought on by forcing him to live in a strange house with his family but without all his home comforts, (as well as the craziness of Christmas that loomed ominously ahead), was too tempting to ignore. So with a body sore and ravaged by an excess of sun and sand, the idea of someone gently rubbing oil all over my body suddenly held a ton of appeal.

 

When my masseuse first told me she was Japanese, I now realise that I should have listened to my intuition when it tried to warn me that my massage might not be the relaxing experience I had envisaged. When she went on to admit that her English wasn’t very good, I was tempted to ask if we could agree on a safe word.

 

I find it super-awkies to get my body out for anyone these days, other than the old man if he pays for it, and the medical profession, which is why I could NEVER contemplate a bikini wax. It’s funny how we change, when for years after my pregnancies I’d seriously part my legs for just about anyone.

 

That’s one of my issues with massage – the invasion of body privacy part. Topless, with your face plugged into a hole in a table, it’s hard not to feel a bit vulnerable when, like me, you feel a bit coy about your wobbly bits; one wrong move and your masseuse could sue you for getting whipped in the face by a flying boob.

 

Nevertheless, I really tried to enjoy it. Even when she dug what must have been the full force of her elbow along the length of my calcium-poor spine and pinched callously at my ribs, I tried to remain positive. But as she kneaded the knots at the back of my neck, it was hard not to compare the experience to pulverising meat for a barbecue.

 

Finally, obviously satisfied that she had annihilated every tissue in my back, my masseuse asked me to roll over so she could work on my front. Whereupon I became ridiculously boob-shy, like some pubescent school girl in the sports changing room. She started by rubbing behind my ears, (not unpleasant) and worked rhythmically down every stubborn sinew in my neck to my chest as I lay there in panic, wondering when she was going to whip off the towel protecting the last remnants of my modesty and begin pummelling at my sad, old breasts in some desperate attempt to revive them to their former glory.

 

She obviously sensed my fear. ‘Too much pressure?’ she asked, as I smiled gratefully back at her.

 

I think I felt better afterwards, if the after-effects of a body-battering can be seen in a positive light; although I couldn’t move my head from side to side for days which made saying ‘no’ to the kids very difficult. However, I did avoid the peeling stage of sunburn on my back after the force of my masseuse’s magic palms removed the top layer of my skin.

 

The price of beauty.

Friends, Holidays And Doing Fuck All

I’ve spoken before about the need to prune the bush of friendship before; about the sad inevitability that as we age, we evolve, yet sadly not always at the same rate or in the same direction as our friends. 98f5fba1da734740819bba3a4c8e642a

 

But fortunately, one of the BEST things about getting older is that we no longer have to tolerate those people or their shit in our lives. If it ain’t working, we don’t have to fix it, as long as we have the balls in our new skin to accept possible repercussions, such as watching Netflix with the dog on New Year’s Eve.

 

Sometime between Christmas Day and New Year, the content on my Facebook news page changed dramatically from glammed up Christmas Day family photos – with associated food porn, fairy lights and every excess imaginable – to the photos of what my circle of friends have chosen to do in the grey area before the last round of binge drinking on New Years Eve.

 

These pieces of photographic evidence provide an interesting method for judging your friends,

 

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been an Olympian under-achiever this week, and that the only times I’ve set foot out of bed before 1pm have been for food, alcohol or a pee. It has taken a supreme effort to merely lift the remote control to flick between Mad Men episodes and the only communication the old man and I have shared have been arguments over which restaurant to go to or whose turn it is to take the Princess out for her bodily functions.

 

But isn’t the true definition of a ‘holiday’ to do fuck all?

 

That’s why I won’t be guilted out by those friends of mine who have indirectly and (in my opinion) selfishly made me feel more inadequate by posting photos of themselves DOING ACTIVE STUFF, or even worse, choosing to go somewhere cold and geographically challenging when IT’S FUCKING SUMMER IN SYDNEY.

 

WHY????

 

I get that we aren’t all cut from the same cloth and obviously some people see the potential of a week off work as greater than channel flicking as a form of workout; and more bizarrely associate relaxation with exercise, fresh air and maintaining some level of fitness.

 

Who are these people? And how did they become my friends?

 

 

My Top 3 TV Series For The Holidays

With the holidays looming tantalisingly closer, what better way for life’s real achievers (such as myself) to waste our hard-earned free time than by watching back-to-back series on Netflix?

 

Personally, I find a lot of the answers to life’s problems from tv.

 

Mad-men-title-cardAt the moment, my top 3 series of choice are Mad Men, Friday Night Lights and Homeland; an eclectic mix of genres, I admit, but one that stimulates the different needs of the complexities within my brain.

 

Many people believe that watching tv inanely, night after night, constitutes a waste of precious ‘living’ time, but not me. What else do you do in middle age on a week night? And there is so much to be learnt. Much of my middle-aged education and the intellectual inspiration for this blog comes from the education to be had from the fine art of couch potato-ing.

 

So here are my 3 recommendations:

 

250px-Friday_Night_Lights_title_cardI admit that I came late to the party of Mad Men, and in particular to the attributes of its protagonist, resident love rat, Don Draper *swoon*, whom no matter what he does, I find myself strangely drawn to, and desperate to mend. What can I say? I’m a sucker for ‘damaged goods’. With its quirky, smoke-filled, sixties interiors, (worryingly reminiscent of my own childhood home), the oblivion of its characters to the dangers of drinking and smoking all day long, the stunning fashion, subtle humor and its portrayal of the slow rise of women to the top of the corporate ladder – you have to mix yourself a Martini and give this series a go.

 

And it’s not all about Don. If there’s a whiff of creativity in your bones, there’s also the excitement of witnessing the evolution of ad campaigns developed by Mad Men’s band of eccentric characters, and the office politics that so often screw them over. But if you’re kind of indifferent to politics and lavish styling after a crap day at the office, the pivotal reason for us sad cougars to watch Mad Men has to be to revel in Don Draper’s male beauty as he smoulders his way through each episode, pulling us slowly into his dark world, leaving little room for any other male character to light our fires – except for Roger and his twisted witticisms.HomelandTVSeries

 

Don Draper may be a very bad man, but he is the very attractive, tortured-soul type of bad man that every woman falls desperately in love with.

 

I defy anyone to diss the wise, godli/goodness of Coach Taylor on Friday Nights Live. If you want to learn both how to, and how NOT to raise teenagers, this series is the best visual parenting manual on Netflix. There are so many wise, schmaltzy, one-liners in this series to come out of Coach Taylor’s mouth as he gees up his motley team each week to get them to the football State finals *yawn*, they’d make Margaret Thatcher weep.

 

Who truly needs the Huffington Post Parenting Blog when we can learn from the Taylors’ parenting mistakes with their sullen daughter, Julie?

 

Like the rest of us, these two don’t escape the quagmire of parenting a teenager easily, even though they are upstanding, God-fearing Texans with hearts of gold. While Tami (pronounced Teimi, ya’ll) insists in every episode that communication is the best ingredient for a successful relationship with your teenage daughter, every time sulky Julie opens her heart to her, she flips her lid. I try not to judge; we’ve all been there. And far be it for me to even notice the team of hot players – TIM FUCKING RIGGINS!!!! – I wouldn’t want to be accused of ogling eighteen-year old boys or anything.

 

If you need more encouragement about this series, here are some of Coach Taylor’s best quotes: (To be read in a Texan drawl)

 

“Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself.”

 

“Money comes and goes, yeah? These kids of ours… that’s a one-time deal.”

 

And finally, onto the more serious business of Homeland.

 

This series has proven to me that I’m nowhere near as intelligent as I thought I was. If the old man and I get to the end of an episode of Homeland without asking each other ‘what the fuck just happened?’ or ‘did you understand what the fuck was going on?’, we’re secretly disappointed. Gritty, action-packed and fearless – and that’s just Carrie’s facial expressions – Homeland is one of those series where you have to remember to breathe during an episode. And, well you know what a sucker I am for mental illness? Carrie brings the whole shebang of Bipolar craziness to the party, with the super intelligence, intuition and genius that often goes hand in hand with it.

 

The woman even rocks a wig when she’s trying to go incognito, FFS!

 

TAKE YOUR FUCKING MEDS, CARRIE!’ I must shout at the screen in just about every episode.

 

Added to which, the series has proven itself ahead of the game in terms of world politics, and although fictional, there’s a lot to be learnt here about how government intelligence bureaus really work. The series has offered up its share of hot men, too, (the most vital component for staying awake during any series in my book), and even made gingers look attractive in its first series, although even I’m questioning how Quinn can possibly have survived that many bullet wounds without hospitalisation.

 

Fortunately, each new hole is a guarantee he’ll get his shirt off.

 

School Holidays And Thinking About Wine A Lot

School Holidays And Thinking About Wine A Lot
The Joys of Cooking by Bucky Schwarz found on http://www.flickr.com

 

Now I’m not one to complain (!), but IT IS week four of both school holidays and the old man’s annual holiday from work.

 

And my living area appears to have been redistributed to accommodate that surplus of testosterone and morphed into a man shed. So much so that it no longer feels like my home.

 

The kitchen is a permanent bomb site – for some reason, neither man nor teenager has the ability to process the knowledge necessary to shut a cupboard door – there’s never any toilet roll and my sofa cushions keep being un-ceremoniously dumped on the floor, which upsets my OCD.

 

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/200554504-003

 

And Kurt has been permanently affixed to the sofa, watching endless un-educational and crappy movies, since we returned from our road trip. In fact, the only time he drags his body off the sofa at all is to raid our depleting food stores like some rabid animal that appears to suffer from bursts of insatiable hunger every hour on the hour.

 

Let’s hope an apocalypse doesn’t happen any time soon, or we’re fucked.

 

My fridge is almost empty – apart from the usual motley leftovers that no-one ever touches, like quince and olives, and it’s only been five days since the last food shop.

 

And how many times is it reasonable to ask someone politely to clear away their plates before you deserve to be accused of nagging? I stick to my usual argument about the whole nagging debate is that surely I wouldn’t have to nag if they just did what I fucking asked them in the first place?

 

I’ve tried to unstick my son’s lanky body from my leather sofa with all sorts of tempting enticements, such as lunch out, the cinema or a trip into the city, but he has told me that he would rather stick needles in his testicles than be seen out with me – (a bit harsh!) – and feels he has done his filial duty for 2015 by coming on holiday with us.

 

The old man’s timing has been spot-on as always. Just when he’s finally donated some of his precious time away from work-fun to spend quality time with the spawn, he goes and fractures a rib this morning.

 

Don’t even ask. That man can pull a muscle changing programmes on the remote.

 

He has spent the day lying on the sofa, moaning and wincing every time I look in his direction witheringly, next to the high achiever of a son he helped create.

 

Funny how he can still seem to hotfoot it to the fridge for sustenance when I’m not looking, though.

 

Unable to work in the living room, aka the newly-styled man shed, I have been reduced to working in our tiny bedroom and have wasted almost a whole day searching the Internet for a small desk to work from, so that I can escape the carnage next door. I found the desk I wanted immediately, but in an effort to save money, I have since wasted six hours this afternoon of what could have been paid work hours trying to find a cheaper version.

 

Time management, like money management – resolutions for 2015.

 

All I can do is pray that the old man doesn’t manipulate our doctor – who he thinks has the hots for him – into giving him a sick note for next week, and that Kurt gets a life at some point soon.

 

I’ve been thinking about wine a lot.

 

 

Middle-Aged Slip Slop Slap

Skin care is of prime importance when you reach middle age, because every exposure to those scary UV rays has the ghastly potential to create another line on your face or a melanoma.

English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours.
English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Gone are the days when us POMS would whizz off to some Mediterranean hotspot for our annual two weeks of holiday, slap oils with as much skin protection as olive oil all over our bodies, and then fry until we were a Peking Duck shade of brown.

 

Similar to the dangers of smoking cigarettes, eating red meat and drinking too much alcohol, in those days we were naïve to the inherent dangers of a tan, of course. For us a tan symbolized healthiness and fitness, rather than impending doom.

 

There’s nothing healthy about a tan.

 

But there’s also no greater feeling than lying in the sun for a few hours after a hard week spent in air conditioning, creating some vitamin D; an important commodity for the health of our bones at this time of our lives.

 

The old man and I are partial to our local outdoor pool for our place of sun worship, mainly because there’s no sand to contend with. It also has a wonderful terrace area, which due to its position at a distance from the pool, is child free and generally full of attractive twenty to thirty year olds, many of whom are obviously gay men who have a pleasing knack for looking after their bodies.

 

CHILD FREE…and the coffee’s not bad, either.

 

There is absolutely no better way to soothe a Sunday morning hangover than a perv at the local pool, where you can stock up on vitamin D and caffeine, swim twenty lengths and convince yourself that’s the exercise for the week done, all at the same time.

 

But with no shade on aforementioned CHILD FREE balcony, it’s not a place for the fair skinned, English Rose. Australia is a harsh habitat to live in for those deficient in melanin and it can turn even the most experienced British sunbather into a lobster within minutes, much to the delight of the local community.

 


Embed from Getty Images

 

The old man and I have been arguing over sun creams of late – and yes, our life really is that interesting. Rather like coffee, wine, knickers and men, it’s just so hard to find the perfect sunscreen. They are either too gloopy, as runny as milk, take ages to rub in (or don’t rub in all), or you need a second mortgage to pay for them.

 

Which is a first world problem, I know, but it can turn even sunbathing into a chore.

 

The old man has settled on one of these new-fangled sprays, but never one to give from his wallet lightly, he acquired his can at Aldi. I, on the other hand, although happy to use my Aldi purchases in the privacy of my own home, refuse to let everyone know the true state of our finances at our local pool. And I’ve also become a bit of an expert when it comes to sun screen (compromised as I am by skin as white as alabaster) and have road tested all the cheap brands over forty years of sunbathing.

 

So the only brand that works for me is Le Tan Coconut Spray, which as the name suggests,  conjures up wonderful memories of sun, sand, sex and Pina Coladas in the South of France in the good old days when I used to feign ignorance about sun damage and would douse myself as liberally in oil as Kim’s arse in THOSE recent photos.

 

Yesterday, I watched the old man spray his Aldi screen all over him like perfume, with what could only be described as a smug grin on his face, (which is his ‘I’m saving money’ face), aimed at me, as I lathered my body more carefully with my coconut spray.

 

(These petty little competitions keep our marriage alive, I hasten to add).

 

Later that day, during our well-deserved afternoon nap – a treat for all that hard work at the pool – I watched the angry lines of redness appear on his chest, like Masai tribal markings, where the spray had missed his body, and smiled smugly too.